RIP: USF men’s basketball ’03-04 season

There’s no disputing that this season hasn’t been kind to the USF men’s basketball team. It comes to an end Saturday when the Bulls host DePaul.

However, one thing has been made clearer throughout the second half of the schedule, where the Bulls have lost seven of their last 10 games by no more than 10 points.

They’re getting better.

“I think a lot of ways we will be better next year because of the things that happened this year,” coach Robert McCullum said. “I think we put things in place to be able to maintain a level of success in the future.”The improvement in the Bulls was made evident Wednesday when USF (7-19, 1-14 in Conference USA) lost in the last three seconds to UAB (18-8, 11-4), which is vying for No. 3 in C-USA.

The first time these two teams met, Jan. 20, the Blazers stomped the Bulls 86-47. USF looks much different, and the results have also been different.

When the Bulls played their final non-conference game of the season Dec. 30 at New Orleans, they dressed 10 scholarship players.

Since then, senior Jimmy Baxter and freshman Sam Barber were dismissed from the team, sophomore James Holmes and junior Marlyn Bryant were lost to injury and walk-on Alton Darling quit.

With only seven scholarship players and a walk-on starter, McCullum, in his first season at USF, has made the team his own and is building for the future.

The Bulls’ future will begin after the present ends Saturday, when the Bulls will say goodbye to two starters.

McCullum will continue the same senior day traditions.

“(We’ll do) what they’ve done here, acknowledge the seniors,” McCullum said.

“Hopefully, their parents will be able to accompany them on the floor.”

Center Gerrick Morris needs one more block to set the school record, surpassing Curtis Kitchen with 258.

“He’s improved tremendously in a lot of ways, and hopefully, he’s not done with his basketball career,” McCullum said. “There was a stretch when he hit a lull, but he’s done a great job of bouncing back. What he has done over the last eight games has just been amazing with the number of blocked shots.

He is certainly a reason we have been in a majority of our games.””This year has been a transition,” Morris said. “I enjoyed playing for Coach McCullum the same way I enjoyed playing for (Seth) Greenberg.”

Also leaving will be the Bulls’ biggest surprise of the year, walk-on forward Brian Graham.

Graham started the season as a member of the practice squad, never figuring to see any action. With one game remaining, he is averaging 28.7 minutes per game, 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds.

“He certainly made the most of his opportunity as a result of the way things happened,” McCullum said.

“No one could have looked ahead to the future and speculated that he would figure in.

“I am extremely appreciative of what he has given, and he’s done it against the odds, and we’ve asked him to do so much, the number of minutes, the role we’ve asked him to step in and play, in a lot of ways has been unfair to him. He’s done, under the circumstances, an outstanding job.”